Weekend Roundup: Whisky with Mark Charan Newton

By Anne Perry

Posted on September 23, 2013 in Fun Stuff with tags Mark Charan Newton

Sippin’ with an expert.

I had the chance to spend a couple of days visiting¬† author and whisky-aficionado Mark Charan Newton this weekend. We spent some time discussing books, of course, and had an adventure with a group of llamas… but we also got to taste a few whiskies from Mark’s spectacular collection.

In the spirit of full confession, it must be said that I’m a bit of a lightweight. So I tried to take notes, but my handwriting (which borders on illegible under the best of circumstances) veered into the utterly incomprehensible after my second or third sip. And I’m (obviously) no connoisseur. Still – let’s see what I had to say!

Caol Ila Feis lie 2013:
Every year, Islay distilleries put out a special bottle for that year’s Feis. This one was heavily peated. Mark put it nicely when he said it had weight and presence. (Mark’s review is here.)

Top secret Whisky
I can’t share the name of this whisky; Mark only had a little sample of it on the condition that he never reveal its source. So it was very generous of him to share it with a philistine
such as I!

This is the peatiest whisky any of us have ever drunk (one of the peatiest in the world, apparently, if not the peatiest). It’s distilled in new casks, which is unusual, and, as I may have noted, extremely peaty. It hit like a sack of hammers. I loved it. One member of sippin’ party said ‘dip a ciger in a bowl of syrup and chew on it, and that’s what this tastes like.’ Another suggested the taste was more like, ‘taking a charcoal briquette and rubbing it in brown sugar and then sucking on it.’ Either way, delicious (if that’s your thing!)

Bruichladdich – 2013 Wimbledon winner Valinch
My last whisky of the evening. What I remember is that I liked this one very much. Of course, I was at the point in the evening where I liked everything very much! Anyway, this was a self-filled, valinch-sized bottle named for Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win. Read all about it here.

The next night we tried three more:

Karuizawa distillery – Spirit of Asama.
Very sweet! Lovely after a long day spent tromping around Hartington and visiting with Scarthin Books‘ resident cat

Bowmore Tempest Batch 3 – 10 years old.
This was a very peaty whisky – my preference to the sweet, honestly. (Mark’s review is here.)

Ardbeg Alligator
One sip and you immediately understand why it’s called ‘alligator.’ Not to put too fine a point on it, but this alligator bites. Oliver Johnson and Iain M. Banks, when searching Islay for ‘the perfect dram’ decided Ardbeg was the closest to it.

And there you have it! I’m no whisky blogger – or expert, or even pretender – but I certainly enjoyed myself. Of the whiskies listed above, I’d have to say the Alligator was my favourite. What say you? Sweet or peaty? Single-malt or blended? What’s your perfect dram?

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